GOLDSBORO - School is officially in session for all Wayne County Public Schools students.
Although remote, on Monday all 29 schools operating on the traditional academic calendar kicked off their first day of school.
Outside of some state level technology platform slowdowns in the morning, administrators say the day was fairly calm and unlike any first day of school staff has ever seen before.
As part of the return to school, teachers and staff are holding induction meetings to provide families information about school expectations, assist them with logging in to online platforms, and support those in need with technology or online access.
"We are used to having hundreds of students fill our buildings, bringing a buzz of excitement and anticipation into our hallways and classrooms," said Dr. James Merrill, interim superintendent.
"While we all miss those feelings and sounds, we are still glad to see the many small groups of students and families meeting with teachers and staff for the first time to understand what school will look like this year."
Over the next three weeks, the district will be providing training to help teachers effectively provide instruction to students who are at school and those who are at home on the same day as a part of Plan B, which is a hybrid of face-to-face and remote instruction.
The district will also be working to finalize bus routes and address any logistical issues with the transition from full remote instruction to Plan B on September 8.
Two schools, Wayne Early/Middle College High and Wayne School of Engineering opened on Aug. 12 in Plan B. Goldsboro High opened on Aug. 12 in full remote and will transition to Plan B on Sept. 3.
Back to School Resources for Families
For the past month, the district has promoted Back to School information on a special web-resource site: https://www.waynecountyschools.org/2020-2021SchoolReopeningUpdates.aspx
Families seeking the most current information can find resources about School Reopening Plans, Key dates and other valuable resources to help get their school year off to the right start.
Below are the latest back to school updates:
Health Screenings, Masks & Social Distancing
As students and parents return to school for the first time, they are finding new guidelines in place to enter buildings.
Everyone has to take part in health screenings, which includes a temperature check and answering three test station questions specific to COVID-19.
There will be some instances where someone has a verified exemption, such as a medical condition, which will allow them to be on a WCPS campus without a mask.
Unless they have a verified exemption, all students, staff and visitors are required to wear masks on campuses and school buses. Everyone is also being required to maintain 6 feet social distancing.
"Most people have been understanding why these health and safety protocols are in place," said Dr. Marcia Manning, assistant superintendent for student services. "We continue to emphasize the importance of modeling best practices and consistently implementing protocols across our campuses."
Responding to COVID-19
WCPS has been and will continue following state guidance and working with local health officials in its response to COVID-19.
The most current NCDHHS guidance and protocols can be found in the StrongSchoolsNC: Public Health Toolkit (K-12) and the Reference Guide for Suspected, Presumptive, or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 (K-12).
In the event a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 occurs on our campuses, WCPS will work with local health officials to determine appropriate next steps as aligned with NCDHHS protocols specific to notification and communications, closure, and cleaning.
While the district will not release confidential student or staff information, "close contacts" who may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 will be directly notified and a general notification will be made to the school community as applicable.
"Our state is experiencing community spread of COVID-19, meaning no can be for certain where they may have contracted it if they test positive," said Ken Derksen, communications officer.
"While it is not our intention to create unnecessary anxiety or concerns with any general announcements, we believe a school community should be informed when an individual has come on to a school campus that has tested positive for COVID-19."
Last week, the district began making its first general staff announcements at impacted schools in conjunction with the return of teachers.
With school now back in session for students, parents can expect to begin receiving similar notifications.
The easiest way parents can receive a WCPS alert is through a push notification to their phone from the Wayne County Public Schools app. They just need to download the app at the Google Play Store or Apple iTunes.
In addition, parents can now check for WCPS alerts on the district's Facebook page: @WayneCountyPS.
Cleaning & Sanitizing
WCPS continues using special federal funding to purchase cleaning equipment and supplies to support sanitization efforts at schools. Soon every school will have disinfectant cleaning equipment that can be used daily to sanitize both the air and contact surfaces in all of the rooms, as well as in buses, where people have been.
Additionally, cleaning supplies continue being purchased to assist teachers and staff in their efforts to sanitize desks and other contact surfaces in between students.
"While all of our schools have received shipments of cleaning supplies, we continue working to increase our surplus to support our schools in the coming months," said Dr. Tim Harrell, assistant superintendent for support services. "We already have 10 disinfectant machines that are being used around the district to sanitize air and contact surfaces, and will have an additional 30 added before students return.
"It is our hope to sanitize buildings daily so when we learn of a positive case of COVID-19 on a campus, those areas will be scheduled to - or have already been safely disinfected by the time we are notified."
Technology & Remote Instruction
WCPS is awaiting shipments of Chromebooks to arrive in the fall to assist students with remote and virtual instruction. In the interim, the district has begun lending Chromebooks to students who lack a device at home to work on assignments.
However, due to a limited supply, only those students in need of technology will be provided a laptop or an Internet hotspot to assist with remote access. Families needing this type of support are encouraged to complete a special Technology & Internet Access Survey available at https://www.waynecountyschools.org/2020-2021SchoolReopeningUpdates.aspx.
Completing the survey does not automatically guarantee that a student will receive a Chromebook at this time.
Daily curbside pickup will be available at most schools from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for students to receive a free and healthy lunch or breakfast.
Edgewood and Wayne Academy students need to visit a school closest to them if they would like to pick up their meals.